Thursday, September 21, 2006


I got a hotel opposite the train station in Datong, they didn't speak much English. Turned out I don't get a key for my room, I have to fetch the service person to open the door for me, strange. And I had to pay what I thought was a key deposit! (Still I got it back when I checked out)

I headed downtown to have a look at the nine dragon screen. Which is a screen with nine dragons on it (What would you do without me??). It's 45m long and apparently the oldest glazed dragon wall in China. At least that's how it's advertised. As that took all of about 5 minutes to see, I headed off for some food. Californian Beef Noodles from Mr. Lee was the dish of the day. Seems a bit strange for an American to be selling noodles to the Chinese, no? Or maybe it is the beef that is from California, anyway not nearly as good as Pingyao beef. Although not that far from Beijing the locals don't seem too used to tourists. When I was walking about town, you would often hear "Hello!?"

The next day a visit to the Hanging Monastery. A monastery perched on the side of a mountain. The reaon for this was that the local people were having troubles with floods and so put the monastery 100m above the river safe from harm. Now after the 1500 years of silt it sits 50m above ground. The river had now been dammed. Due to it's location, it is protected from the wind at the sides and rains from above and most sun (a mountain opposite blocks the light for all but 2 hours a day). This had allowed the wood to survive for such a long time, which is just as well given that we were traipsing round the narrow passageways. Inside many of the buddhas were headless having been hacked off by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. The fingers were cut off the main ones, the guide said the guards were too scared to chop off the head of the main buddhas.

Next it was off to Yungang caves. The caves are reputed to hold over 50,000 buddhist statues! The main caves are 5-20, these are in the best conditions and hold the largest buddhas. Buddhas everywhere! Some big, some small, some painted, some bare. The big buddhas were carved from the rock, a small tunnel is created 20m above ground level and then the process of carving begins downwards. Dragging the dirt back out the entrance tunnel, the buddha emerges from the rock and finally the main entrance is carved away creating the cave.

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